Addicted to War:

And this does not include "…spending $1.25 trillion dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and $566 billion to build the Navy a 308-ship fleet…"    


Dear Comrades, attached is some new art, where Xinachtli really outdid himself some.

Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:

Love this guy!




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:










Dear Bonnie,

Standing Rock raised the stakes for the global environmental and indigenous rights movements. Now, another victory. A North Dakota judge has ruled that my legal team is entitled to substantially more evidence from the North Dakota State Prosecutor's office than has been forthcoming in other water protector cases. We will be able to take sworn testimony and demand documents from Energy Transfer Partners and their private, militarized security firm, TigerSwan.

The timing on this ruling is important for all environmental protectors. 84 members of Congress—nearly all Republicans—recently sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions encouraging him to invoke the domestic terrorism statute to prosecute fossil fuel protesters. These attacks on our fundamental constitutional rights, spearheaded by Donald Trump and parroted by congressional shills of Big Oil, should deeply concern all citizens who value our right to speak freely and demonstrate.

Our team has produced a new video that explains how I was singled out and targeted—and the justification for our bold legal strategy to expose the illegal and immoral wedding of the fossil fuel industry, law enforcement, and militarized private security forces. You'll see why I took action on behalf of my people, millions of others downstream, and Unci Maka—Grandmother Earth. Please watch it, and share it widely.

Share on Facebook

Don't lose sight of what Standing Rock means. My tribe—one of the poorest communities in the nation—won't stop leading the struggles to protect the earth and freedom of expression. Continue to stand with me, my courageous fellow defendant HolyElk Lafferty, and hundreds of others being represented by our ally organization, the Water Protector Legal Collective. Our fight is your fight—and it is nothing less than the movement to protect freedom and the earth for future generations.

Wopila—I thank you.

Chase Iron Eyes

Lakota People's Law Project Lead Counsel

Lakota People's Law Project

547 South 7th Street #149

Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

United States



​Plan to attend these important events to demonstrate that the American people do not another war in Korea, do not want to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and do not want a president who conducts foreign policy by Twitter and trashtalk. Additional details will be forthcoming as they become available 

Please share with your networks

Averting U.S. War on North Korea: What Progressives Must Know and Do Now

Start: November 10, 2017 7:00 PM

End: November 10, 2017 9:00 PM

Location:First Congregational Church2501 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA 94612

The U.S. and North Korea are on a dangerous path towards a military confrontation that could kill millions and engulf the world in a nuclear holocaust. Trump has threatened, "to totally destroy North Korea," and the United States has shifted massive military assets to Guam and Okinawa in preparation for a military first strike. North Korea is on track to launch a long-range missile with the capacity to strike Washington, DC, and Pyongyang has responded that it has the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers – even outside their airspace for self-defense.

As part of our War & Liberation series, Center for Political Education is proud to host a discussion with leading Korea peace activists and experts on the historical roots of this conflict. The panel will discuss what peace and social justice movements are doing and must do locally, nationally and internationally to avert war. This movement includes Korean American activists whose families and friends live directly in the line of fire in North and South Korea.


Christine Ahn, Women Cross DMZ

Ellen Choy, HOBAK

Kevin Gray, University of Sussex

Co-sponsored by Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans (HOBAK) and Women Cross DMZ. 


Korea Peace Walk

Start: November 11, 2017 1:00 PM

End: November 11, 2017 4:00 PM

Location:Telegraph AveRoute currently being finalized, Oakland, CA 94609

Host Contact Info: Paul Liem info@kpolicy.org

Korea Peace Walk through Historic Oakland Koreatown

Co-sponsored by Korea Policy Institute and HOBAK

Saturday, November 11, 2017, 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Oakland, Telegraph Ave corridor

In view of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea stemming from U.S. threats to destroy North Korea, this year's walkathon is a Korea Peace Walk jointly sponsored by KPI and HOBAK traversing approximately 20 blocks of Telegraph Avenue populated with Korean business and historic sites of labor and Black Panther Party activism. We will stop along the way, leafleting, drumming and chanting as we go, winding up with a rally at Koryo Place, 44th Street and Telegraph Avenue.

We are still finalizing the route, and will send out details next week. But please save the date 11/11, 1-4pm.

HOBAK stands for Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans, a dynamic and creative collective of Korean American activists working on peace an social justice issues in the Bay Area since 2009.







Labor Studies and Radical History

4444 Geary Blvd., Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94118




(call 415.387.5700 to be sure the library is open for the hours you are interested in. We close the library sometimes to go on errands or have close early) suggested)

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on all major holidays and May Day 

We can arrange, by request, to keep the library open longer during the day or open it on weekends. Just ask.


  • Reference Librarian On-site
  • Email and Telephone Reference
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Online Public Access Catalog 
  • Microfilm Reader/Printer
  • DVD and VCR players
  • Photocopier
  • Quiet well-lighted place for study and research 

For an appointment or further information, please email: david [at] holtlaborlibrary.org 



Prison Radio UPDATE:

Please sign this petition:

Release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case!


A ruling to implement Judge Leon Tucker's recent order to release Mumia's court documents could be made as soon as May 30, 2017. Please call or e-mail the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office now to pressure them to follow the court's order to release all the records and files regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case.

Phone: 215-686-8000

Judge Orders DA to Produce Complete File for Mumia's Case

Dear Friend,

This just in! Judge Leon Tucker of the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia has ordered the District Attorney of Philadelphia to produce the entire case file for Cook v. the Commonwealth- the case file in Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal conviction, by September 21st.

The DA's office has to produce the entire file for "in camera" review in Judge Tucker's chambers. This mean Judge Tucker thinks that a thorough review of all the relevant files is in order! Or in other words, what has been produced under court order from the DA'a office has been woefully deficient.

Judge Tucker worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the late 90's, so he knows what is in -and not in- files. Cook v. the Commonwealth comprises at least 31 boxes of material held by the DA. Will they turn over "all information and the complete file" for Mumia's case, as Judge Tucker has ordered?

This in camera review by Judge Tucker himself means that an independent jurist will personally inspect the documents the DA produces. See the order here.  Stay tuned for more information following September 21. This is just one step in a long walk to freedom. It is a step that has never been taken before.

OPEN the files. Justice Now!



Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (City Lights Open Media)

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

A Book Review by Robert Fantina

With the recent acquittal of two more police officers in the deaths of unarmed Black men, the question posed by the title of this book is as relevant as it ever was. Through a series of concise, clear essays, Mumia Abu-Jamal details the racism against Blacks, comparing today's behaviors with the lynchings that were common in the south prior to the decade of the sixties. He points out the obvious: The passage of Civil Rights legislation hasn't changed much; it simply changed the way racism operates.

The ways in which the white establishment has worked to oppress Blacks is astounding. After the Civil War, when slavery was no longer legal, "whites realized that the combination of trumped-up legal charges and forced labor as punishment created both a desirable business proposition and an incredibly effective tool for intimidating rank-and-file emancipated African Americans and doing away with their most effective leaders."

Abu-Jamal states that, today, "where once whites killed and terrorized from beneath a KKK hood, now they now did so openly from behind a little badge." He details the killing of Black men and women in the U.S. with almost complete impunity.

There are two related issues Abu-Jamal discusses. The first is the rampant racism that enables the police to kill unarmed Blacks, as young as 12 years old, for no reason, and the second is the "justice" system that allows them to get away with it.

One shocking crime, amid countless others, occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012; a police officer was acquitted in the deaths of two, unarmed Blacks, after leaping onto the hood of their car and firing 15 rounds from his semi-automatic rifle into the car's occupants. That is 137 shots, at point blank range, into the bodies of two unarmed people.

If this were an anomaly, it would be barbaric, but it is not: it is common practice for the police to kill unarmed Blacks, and, on the rare occasions that they are charged with a crime, for the judges and juries to acquit them.

In the U.S., Black citizens are disproportionally imprisoned. With for-profit prisons on the rise, this injustice will only increase.

Abu-Jamal relates story after story with the same plot, and only the names are different. An unarmed Black man is stopped by the police for any of a variety of reasons ranging from trivial (broken tail light), to more significant (suspect in a robbery). But too often, the outcome is the same: the Black man is dead and the police officer who killed him, more often than not white, is either not charged, or acquitted after being charged.

The Black Lives Matter movement formed to combat this blatant injustice, but it will be an uphill battle. As Abu-Jamal says, "Police serve the ownership and wealth classes of their societies, not the middling or impoverished people. For the latter, it is quite the reverse." As a result, people of color suffer disproportionately, too often winding up on the wrong side of a gun.

What is to be done? Abu-Jamal refers to the writings of Dr. Huey P. Newton, who calls not for community policing, but for community control of the police. Abu-Jamal argues forcefully for a new movement, "driven by commitment, ethics, intelligence, solidarity, and passions; for without passion, the embers may dim and die."

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is powerful, disturbing, well-written, and an important book for our day.

Robert Fantina is the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy. His articles on foreign policy, most frequently concerning Israel and Palestine, have appeared in such venues as Counterpunch and WarIsaCrime.org.

New York Journal of Books, July 2017





Campaign to Stop Modern Day Slavery in Colorado, Demanding Equal Rights to the Under Represented


Petitioning Denver FBI & US Department of Justice

Stop Slavery in Colorado

On May 29, 2008 at approximately 10:00 p.m. Omar Gent was driving in his car headed to the gas station; however was pulled over by local police for what was stated to be a "traffic violation". Omar was then arrested on scene and taken to be identified as the suspect of a local robbery. The victim was shown a photo of Omar Gent (which is illegal) and then was taken to the traffic stop where Omar was already handcuffed in the back of the police car and a one-on-one show up was held at a distance of approximately 20-30 feet; the victim  was unable to identify Omar as the suspect during the first show up.  After given a second show up the victim believed he was 90% sure Omar was the suspect.

Coworkers #1 and #2  were not present at the time of the robbery but were used as witnesses to help identify the suspect. Coworker #1 was also taken to the one-on-one show up and was asked to identify Omar as the suspect and he could not as he stated "I have astigmatism" and was not 100% sure Omar was the man.  Coworker #2 positively identified Omar Gent as the suspect because he stated, "there aren't that many black men in Parker Colorado." At the pretrial suppression of ID/photo line up the victim picked three other black men all with different builds and heights; although prior the victim was "90% sure" he had identified the right man. In addition, Coworker #1 stated during the trial that he was angry when he made the ID because he was ready to go home and coworker #2  told him that it was Omar.

Omar's car was illegally searched without consent or warrant. After his arrest and enduring many hours of integration, Omar asked for an attorney, yet all he received were more questions and did not receive the legal representation requested.  During interrogation, the police tried to coerce Omar to confess to the robbery or else they would throw his family out of their home.  Omar maintained his innocence and did not confess to the crime and as a result the police kept their word. Four Colorado Police Officers forcefully entered Omar's home  and began to search his home without a warrant or consent; Omar's family was present and told police that they were not given permission to enter. The police forced Omar's family out of their home into the Colorado winter night. The police took what they wanted during the illegal search of Omar's home. Omar's family filed a complaint against the city because of the illegal search of their home.  In efforts to conceal the police officers' wrongdoing, the presiding Judge sealed the legit complaint. In addition, the video interrogation showing Omar requesting to have legal representation and police threats to throw his family out of their home unless he confessed was deemed inadmissible in court.

Omar has written proof that he requested a preliminary hearing to challenge the charges of probable cause but he was illegally denied the right--without Omar's knowledge and approval the public defender waived his rights to a preliminary hearing.  Omar was then charged with an infamous felony yet never received a grand jury indictment (which is required by Colorado Bill of Rights for felony charges). Due to the fact that Omar was never indicted, he was subsequently denied his sixth Amendment right (to confront and cross examine witnesses). Omar has been fighting his case by seeking justice for the violation of his civil rights. Help us stop illegal imprisonment in Colorado.

  • This petition will be delivered to:
    • Denver FBI & US Department of Justice 

"Please help us by stopping the mass incarceration in Colorado! Basic civil rights are being violated and we need your help to shed light on this issue." 

Sign then share this petition at: 






Thank you for being a part of this struggle.

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director




To give by check: 

PO Box 411074

San Francisco, CA


Stock or legacy gifts:

Noelle Hanrahan

(415) 706 - 5222



MEDIA ADVISORYMedia contact: Morgan McLeod, (202) 628-0871




Washington, D.C.— Despite recent political support for criminal justice reform in most states, the number of people serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984. 

A new report by The Sentencing Project finds a record number of people serving life with parole, life without parole, and virtual life sentences of 50 years or more, equaling one of every seven people behind bars. 

Eight states  Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Utah  have at least one of every five prisoners serving a life or de facto life sentence in prison. 

The Sentencing Project will host an online press conference to discuss its report Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences, on Wednesday, May 3rd at 11:00 a.m. EDT.   

Press Conference Details

WHAT: Online press conference hosted by The Sentencing Project regarding the release of its new report examining life and long-term sentences in the United States. REGISTER HERE to participate. The call-in information and conference link will be sent via email.  


Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EDT 


  • Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project's senior research analyst and author of Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences
  • Evans Ray, whose life without parole sentence was commuted in 2016 by President Obama
  • Steve Zeidman, City University of New York law professor and counsel for Judith Clark—a New York prisoner who received a 75 year to life sentence in 1983

The full report will be available to press on Wednesday morning via email.

Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.




stand with reality winner

patriotDoes Reality hate America? Or does the government just hate Reality?Announcing that Reality would be denied bail a second time, judge Brian Epps cited as his justification that Reality Winner "hates America" and "plotted against the government".

This statement is an outrageous slander against a young woman who's spent her entire adult life serving this country, right up to the day she was arrested.

In this way of thinking, to want America to be better is to hate it. To spend your entire adult life working hard and making sacrifices for America is to hate it. To be so outraged by a threat to America that you'd risk your career and your freedom to stop it is to hate it.

And it makes no sense. What does it mean to say that Reality "hates America," and why is it important to the prosecution that the public believes this?

What is this really about?

The real reason is the text of the Espionage Act. The 100-year-old law has been used since its passage as a loophole to deny Americans their rights to a free press, free speech, and whistleblower protections. The Espionage Act doesn't mention "classified information" at all -- the law is intended to punish people who transmit information with an intent to harm the United States or aid its enemies.

The document Reality is charged with releasing contains information about threats to our election integrity, which is still being covered up by the government. Voters and election officials have a right to know about these threats so they can take action to fix them. Having this information in the open is critically important, and the idea that releasing it "harmed America" is so absurd it's barely worth dignifying with a response.

The idea is so absurd that Reality's prosecutors are doing everything they can to avoid having to argue for it, because they would absolutely lose. Instead, they're trying to put Reality's politics on trial.

Read our full article on Reality's unjust prosecution here.

Reality's defense team intends to not only prove her innocence, but to turn the tables on this outrageously unjust prosecution, and put the Espionage Act on trial. We have the chance to permanently end this tactic, and to force the government to honor whistleblower protections, but only if we have the resources for the fight. We're up against the unlimited resources of Trump's justice department, and all we have is each other. Please donate today and help us win.

TAKE ACTION: Reality will be sitting in jail for another 5 months as she awaits trial. We need to let her know we have her back. Can you write her a letter of support? Visit StandWithReality.org for instructions on how to write her and let her know you're thinking of her!

art-bannerNew gallery of Reality's artwork onlineWe recently posted a gallery of Reality's drawing and paintings, including a few she's sent her mom from jail. Check it out here!

STAND WITH REALITY WINNER ~ PATRIOT & ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWERc/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

standwithreality.org ~ facebook.com/standwithreality



When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


Mothers Message to the NY/NJ Activist Community 

In order to effectively combat the existing opportunism, hidden agendas and to better provide ALL genuinely good willed social justice organizations and individuals who work inside of the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas... with more concrete guidelines; 

The following "10 Point Platform and Justice Wish List" was adopted on Saturday, May 13, 2017    during the "Motherhood: Standing Strong 4 Justice" pre-mothers day gathering which was held     at Hostos Community College - Bronx, New York.......

"What We Want, What We Need" 

May, 2017 - NY/NJ Parents 10 Point Justice Platform and Wish List 

Point #1 - Lawyers and Legal Assistance:  Due to both the overwhelming case loads and impersonal nature of most public defenders, the Mothers believe that their families are receiving limited options, inadequate legal advise and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in gaining access to experienced "pro-bono" and/or activist attorneys as well as the free resources provided by non-profit social justice and legal advocacy groups.


Point #2 - First Response Teams: The Mothers felt that when their loved ones were either killed or captured by the police that they were left in the hands of the enemy and without any support, information or direction on how to best move forward and therefore; WE WANT and NEED community activists to help us develop independently community controlled & trained first response teams in every borough or county that can confirm and be on the ground within 24 hours of any future incident.


Point #3 - Security and Support At Court Appearances: The Mothers all feel that because community activist support eventually becomes selective and minimal, that they are disrespected by both the courthouse authorities, mainstream media and therefore;   WE WANT and NEED community activists to collectively promote and make a strong presence felt at all court appearances and; To always provide trained security & legal observers... when the families are traveling to, inside and from the court house.


Point #4 - Emotional/Spiritual Healing and Grief and Loss Counseling: After the protest rallies, demonstrations, justice marches and television cameras are gone the Mothers all feel alone and abandoned and therefore;                                                                             WE WANT and NEED for community activists to refer/help provide the families with clergy, professional therapy & cultural outlets needed in order to gain strength to move forward. 


Point #5 -  Parents Internal Communication Network: The Mothers agreed as actual victims, that they are the very best qualified in regards to providing the needed empathy and trust for an independent hotline & contact resource for all of the parents and families who want to reach out to someone they can mutually trust that is able understand what they are going through and therefore;           WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in providing a Parents Internal Communication Network to reach that objective.


Point #6 -  Community Offices and Meeting Spaces: The Mothers agreed that there is an extreme need for safe office spaces where community members and family victims are able to go to for both confidential crisis intervention and holding organizing meetings and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                                 WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in securing those safe spaces inside of our own neighborhoods.   


Point #7 - Political Education Classes and Workshop Training: The Mothers agreed in implementing the "each one, teach one"   strategy and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                         WE WANT and NEEDfor community activists to help us in being trained as educators and organizers in Know Your Rights, Cop Watch, First Response, Emergency Preparedness & Community Control over all areas of public safety & the police in their respective neighborhoods.


Point #8 - Support From Politicians and Elected Officials: The Mothers believe that most political candidates and incumbent elected officials selectively & unfairly represent only those cases which they think to be politically advantageous to their own selfish personal success on election day and therefore;                                                                                                                                WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in either publicly exposing or endorsing these aforementioned political candidates and/or elected officials to their constituents solely based upon the uncompromising principles of serving the people.


Point #9 - Research and Documentation: The Mothers believe that research/case studies, surveys, petitions, historical archives, investigative news reporting and events should be documented and made readily available in order to counter the self-serving  police misinformation promoted by the system and therefore;                                                                                                                          WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us by securing college/university students, law firms, film makers, authors, journalists and professional research firms to find, document & tell the people the truth about police terror & the pipeline to prison.


Point #10 - Grassroots Community Outreach and Information: The Mothers believe that far too much attention is being geared towards TV camera sensationalism with the constant organizing of marches & rallies "downtown"  and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to provide a fair balance by helping us to build in the schools, projects, churches and inside of the subway trains and stations of our Black, brown and oppressed communities where the majority of the police terror is actually taking place. 













Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition

by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)



MAJOR TILLERY: Still Rumbling!

October 22—Major Tillery's challenge to his 1985 conviction for a 1976 murder and assault goes to a Pennsylvania Superior Court appeals panel on October 31. Tillery's case is about actual innocence. It highlights Philadelphia's infamous culture of police and prosecutorial misconduct. The only so-called evidence against him was from lying jailhouse informants who were threatened with false murder prosecutions, and plea and bail deals on pending cases. A favorite inducement for jailhouse informants in the early 1980's was "sex for lies." Homicide detectives brought the informants and their girlfriends to police headquarters for private time in interview rooms for sex.

This is Major Tillery's 34th year in prison on a sentence of life without parole. Over twenty of those years were spent in solitary confinement in some of the harshest federal and state "control units."

"Major Tillery, for many years known as the jailhouse lawyer who led the 1990 Tillery v. Owens prisoners' rights civil case, spawned from unconstitutional conditions at the state prison in Pittsburg, is still rumbling these days, this time for his life as well as his freedom."    —Mumia Abu-Jamal, Major: Battling On 2 Fronts, 9/17/17

This past year the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) acknowledged that Major Tillery has hepatitis C, which has progressed to cirrhosis of the liver. The DOC nonetheless refused to provide treatment, ignoring the federal court ruling in Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel that the DOC's hep-C protocols violate the constitutional requirement to provide prisoners adequate medical care. With the help of the Abolitionist Law Center, Major Tillery is now receiving the anti-viral treatment.

Tillery has been doubly punished in prison for his activism in support of fellow prisoners. His 1990 lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens resulted in federal court orders to the PA Department of Corrections to provide medical and mental health treatment and end double-celling. He challenged the extreme conditions of solitary confinement in the NJ State prison in Trenton, Tillery v. Hayman (2007). His advocacy for Mumia Abu-Jamal in February 2015 helped save Mumia's life. Major Tillery filed grievances for himself and other prisoners suffering from painful and debilitating skin rashes. For these acts of solitary with other prisoners, just months after he re-entered general population from a decade in solitary confinement, Tillery was set up with false prison misconduct charges and given four months back in "the hole." Major Tillery filed a federal retaliation lawsuit against the DOC. Recently, Major succeeded in getting a program for elderly prisoners established at SCI Frackville.

For his appeals and continuing investigation, Major Tillery now has the pro bono representation of Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio:

"I took on Major Tillery's defense, which exposes prosecutorial misconduct in convicting Major Tillery of a nine-year old murder based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants. This testimony was recanted in the informants' sworn statements that detail the coercion and favors by homicide detectives and prosecutors to manufacture false trial testimony.

"Now the DA's office wants to uphold the unconstitutional application of 'timeliness' restrictions applied to post-conviction petitions to dismiss Major Tillery's petition, arguing he is too late in uncovering that the DA's office knowingly put a lying witness on the stand."

Major Tillery's appeal is to win his "day in court" on his petition based on his innocence and misconduct by the police and prosecution. At the same time, the investigation continues to further uncover the evidence of this misconduct.

Although Major Tillery has pro bono legal representation there are still substantial costs to appeal and to conduct additional investigation..  Please help with a donation.

How You Can Help

Financial Support—Major Tillery needs funds for a lawyer in his appeal to overturn his conviction.

Go to PayPal

Go to JPay.com;

code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

Or send a check/money order to: Major Tillery or Kamilah Iddeen, U.S. Post Office,

2347 N. 7th St., PO Box 13205, Harrisburg, PA 17110-6501

Have a fund-raising event! Thanks to Dr. Suzanne Ross, International Spokesperson for the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal for $1000 gifted during her 80th Birthday celebration.

Tell Philadelphia District Attorney:

Free Major Tillery! He is an innocent man, framed by police and and prosecution.

Call: 215-686-8711 or  Email: DA_Central@phila.gov

Write to:

Major Tillery AM 9786, SCI Frackville, 1111 Altamont Blvd., Frackville, PA 17931

For More Information, To read the new appeal, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery

Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com

Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com




Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

Sign the Petition:


Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.

"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case

Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.

In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.

Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.

Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."

Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.

In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.

In solidarity,

James Clark

Senior Death Penalty Campaigner

Amnesty International USA

    Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org

    Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.

    Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin.  He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence.  In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.

    There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:

      The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

      The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."

      Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.

      These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.

      The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

    Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.

    The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.

    The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited…         (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)

         This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015










    1) Mold is blanketing Puerto Rico making it difficult for many to breathe.

    By Pakalolo, October 31, 2017


    According to the National Institute of Health (Clinical Microbiology Rev. July 2003; 16(3):497-516. Mycotoxins. By J.W.Bennett and M. Klich), "Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that are capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals.  Mycoses range from merely annoying (e.g., Athlete's Foot) to life-threatening (e.g., invasive Aspergillosis). Primary pathogens affect otherwise healthy individuals with normal immune systems. Opportunistic pathogens produce illness by taking advantage of debilitated or immune-compromised hosts……  The majority of human mycoses are caused by opportunistic fungi."

    "Mycoses are frequently acquired via inhalation of spores from an environmental reservoir. Skin contact with mold-infested substrates and inhalation of spore-borne toxins are also important sources of exposure." (Bennett and Klich, ibid).

    Diseases associated with inhalation of spores include toxic pneumonia, hypersensitivity pneumonia (characterized by inflammation of the lungs which can lead to scarring of the lungs, an irreversible condition that decreases lung capacity), sinusitis, tremors, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney failure, biofilm, hair loss, skin conditions, vision disturbances, neurologic disturbances, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, internal hemorrhaging, and abnormal liver levels. Exposure to mold, according to the Florida Department of Health, can cause cognitive problems such as memory loss and mood swings. In some individuals, these can lead to depression, fatigue and loss of interest in everyday activities. Mycotoxins can cause sleep disturbances and if left untreated, can lead to neurological problems such as impaired balance and difficulty walking.

    The unfolding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria barreled over the island is only getting worse. Alarm bells are being rung from humanitarian organizations on the ground that the deteriorating conditions are seriously impacting human health and survival. Warnings from the front lines are summarized in the excerpts below.

    "It's an emergency that a month in should not be an emergency--but it is," said Thompson, presenting a series of real-life scenarios that Puerto Ricans have been grappling with since driving rain and winds of 155 miles per hour  took down the island's entire electrical grid on Sept. 20.  Without electricity, a great deal of daily life grinds to a halt: there's no light at night,  no fans or air conditioners to cool sweltering rooms, no easy way to charge phones or access the internet, no reliable way to keep hospitals running--the list goes on.

    What would you do, Thompson asked, if your elderly mother, wheel-chair bound and desperately needing food and water, was stuck on the 17th floor of an apartment building in San Juan with no working elevator?

    Or, what if the hurricane had drenched everything inside your house including all the mattresses, forcing you and your children to sleep on the floor where rats could be scampering? Or what if you lived in the countryside, stuck on the far side of a collapsed bridge, and you had no way to get drinking water because the storm knocked out your community's delivery system? There's no bottled water anywhere and a relief convoy hasn't visited in days. What would you do?

    Not everyone is suffering, Thompson pointed out. Those with money have options: They can get a hot meal in a restaurant; they can buy fuel for their cars and generators; they can purchase dry sheets and towels for their homes--and their homes, better built to begin with, may still have their roofs.

    "It's hard to describe the complexity of it," said Thompson. "Parts of San Juan look normal; parts look ravaged."

    "Tarps are desperately needed right now," said Thompson, noting that one rural woman she encountered had relied on her sister in the Dominican Republic, where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, to send her one. "Some kind of lighting system is badly needed. There are all kinds of things you can't get--insect repellent, [a type of ] batteries."

    But with the rainy season here, tarps top the list for some community leaders who are doing all they can to  help ensure people have shelter.  Thompson described the efforts of one woman who has been trying to get tarps for about 800 homes in different communities outside of San Juan: The woman approached the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which sent her to speak to the mayors of the communities. The mayors didn't have tarps, so she went back to FEMA. No luck again. So next she called the tarp manufacturing companies in the US, and hit a dead end there, too.

    "She has been up and down for these communities and has not been able to get these tarps," said Thompson.

    Those efforts are playing out against a new worry for families whose homes have been exposed to the elements: mold.

    "A lot of times in hurricanes people forget to talk about just how hard it is to clean out your house, and the mold," said Thompson. "It's an increasing problem. People are just beginning to realize it." Chlorine is what people need to try and tackle the problem, but the supplies are restricted.

    "You need a whole kit to take mold off," said Thompson. "You need to educate people about that. And so how do you do that when there is no communication?" She said the public health department will need to organize a full effort to address the mold issue.

    "It seems everywhere you come up against another insurmountable problem," Thompson added.



    2) As Wild Salmon Decline, Norway Pressures Its Giant Fish Farms

     NOV. 6, 201





    SKJERJEHAMN, Norway — As a teenager, Ola Braanaas kept a few fish in an aquarium in his bedroom. Now, at 55, he keeps a lot more of them: around 1.2 million just in one windswept spot off the stunning coast of Norway, a giant farm with six large, circular structures each containing around 200,000 fish.

    Once a rarity on global dinner tables, salmon is a staple today, thanks to a fish farming industry that has expanded at breakneck speed in recent decades, including in Norway, where in 2016 around 1.18 million metric tons were produced.

    But now, Norwegian fish farmers face new curbs designed to protect the country's stocks of wild salmon, rules that have ignited anger from the industry and its opponents, prompting threats of court challenges from both sides.

    The wild Norwegian salmon are members of an ancient species that, early in its life cycle, heads down river, swimming through Norway's famous fjords, and out to saltwater feeding grounds, before returning to their native rivers to spawn.

    In recent years, however, the wild salmon population has more than halved, partly because of the spread of sea lice, parasites that feast on the mucus and skin of the fish before moving on to the muscle and fat, making the fish vulnerable to infections and sometimes killing them.

    Sea lice, like the salmon, have existed in the ocean for eons but have emerged as a huge problem for the fish farms, where they multiply in such numbers that they kill farmed fish and pose a risk to young wild salmon as they pass the holding pens on their way to the open sea.

    The lice problem is so bad that the worldwide supply of salmon on sale, the overwhelming majority of which is farmed, fell significantly last year, with Norway, the largest producer, especially hard hit.

    To contain the problem, a system came into force in Norway on Oct. 15, under which farms in regions that are judged to severely threaten wild salmon numbers will have their production frozen and potentially, in future years, cut. If the lice are brought under control, then output can be increased.

    Mr. Braanaas, the owner of Firda Seafood, says that there are already rules in place to control the lice, and that he will go to court if he is ordered to reduce production because of problems from other farms in his region. It is, he says, a "Stasi system," a reference to the secret police of East Germany.

    Norway's biggest producer, Marine Harvest, is also unhappy with the new protocol, which it describes as premature, and wants more work done on the methodology used to decide when there is a lice problem that needs to be addressed.

    Yet, environmentalists seem unimpressed as well. One group, SalmonCamera, plans to challenge the system in court, arguing that it is too lenient. Kurt Oddekalv, leader of the Green Warriors of Norway, says the system is a sign of "panic from the Fisheries Ministry."

    Sea lice kill an estimated 50,000 adult wild fish a year in Norway's rivers, and the wild salmon population has fallen to 478,000 from more than a million in the 1980s, according to one study. So depleted are stocks of wild salmon that around 100 of Norway's 450 salmon rivers are closed to anglers.

    But there are other problems, too, beyond sea lice. Rune Jensen, the head of SalmonCamera, says that wild fish, like cod, congregate around salmon farms, attracted by the food there. These predators eat the young wild salmon in greater numbers than normal as they make their way out to sea, or sometimes even force them into the farm cages.

    But activists say the biggest threat is the genetic impact of farmed fish that escape their pens, reproduce with wild salmon and produce offspring ill-equipped to survive.

    Over the last decade, fish farmers have reported more than 200,000 salmon escaping on average each year, though the real figures may be as much as four times higher than that in the years 2005 to 2011, according to one study.

    The impact has been observed by Norway's anglers. Few people know the fishing grounds of the Dale River as well as Inge Sandven, the head of the Dale Hunters' and Anglers' Club. In just 15 minutes at one river pool, set against a spectacular backdrop of tree-covered hills, he had three bites but no catches.

    Then, the rod strained, and he slowly reeled in a small, shiny, olive brown salmon weighing a couple of pounds. Just by looking at it, as it thrashed in a net, Mr. Sandven could tell a lot about the fish: It was male and had probably spent three years in this river and one winter at sea.

    But what he could not say: whether it was a pure wild salmon.

    "It's impossible to tell. It looks good, but I don't know," Mr. Sandven said, when asked if it might have farmed salmon genes. "It's a 50/50 chance — that's the experience of this year," he added, before releasing his catch.

    Mr. Sandven knows this because he supervises a wild salmon hatchery, and takes DNA samples from fish caught in this river before they are used for breeding. Recently, around half have failed the wild salmon purity test.

    The genetic makeup is important, said Alv Arne Lyse, a fisheries biologist at the Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers. In farm fish pens, where there are no predators, the most aggressive salmon are the most successful, since the only concern is to get as much food as possible.

    Escaped salmon then pass that trait on to hybrid wild salmon, who are then, to mix metaphors, like lambs to the slaughter out in the open seas.

    That is because in the ocean, awareness is far more important for survival than aggressiveness, as danger lurks all around.

    "The offspring of farmed fish are more aggressive, but when they go out in the sea they have very high mortality," Mr. Lyse said, adding that they also often lack the homing instinct to return to a specific river, since they were spawned in commercial hatcheries.

    While previously pollution was a huge problem in aquaculture, he said, now "the only threats that are not under control are the genetic impact from escaped fish and sea lice."

    The fish farmers argue that they play a vital role in feeding the planet, and that they produce a crop worth $8 billion annually to Norway, accounting for about 8 percent of the country's exports.

    The Norwegian government already has rules requiring farms to test the quantity of sea lice in pens and to take action if they exceed the limits.

    Marine Harvest uses so-called cleaner fish that feed on sea lice to help combat the problem. It is also investing in new techniques designed to eliminate the risk of escapes of farmed salmon and to cut lice numbers.

    These include novel ideas such as the "egg" — a solid oval-shaped pen, yet to be constructed, which is enclosed, preventing any risk of salmon escaping, and making it harder for sea lice to enter and spread.

    Information on the health of Norway's farmed fish is now publicly available online. But so divisive is the debate that environmental groups do not trust statistics provided by the farmers, and the two sides don't agree on the facts.

    Along with his fellow Green Warriors, Mr. Oddekalv argues that the scale of fish farming in Norway is unsustainable, and that huge volumes of uneaten feed and fish excrement pollute the seabed. Over the years farmers have been criticized for using antibiotics in fish feed, something that is now barred in Norway, though additives designed to curb the lice also find their way into the food chain, Mr. Oddekalv argues.

    "If people knew this they wouldn't eat salmon," he said, describing the farmed fish as "the most toxic food in the world."

    In a statement, Norway's fisheries minister, Per Sandberg, described the new system for dealing with the sea lice problem as "fair" and constructed on a "safe legal basis."

    He said that "as in all science, there are knowledge gaps," but that scientists agree that lice have a negative impact on wild salmon and that it would "be wrong not to act at all, due to some gaps in our knowledge."

    At his home, which can be reached only by boat, Mr. Braanaas conceded that the Norwegian salmon farming industry has "made a lot of mistakes." But he insisted there were many fewer problems there than in other parts of the world, like Chile, where he said that regulation is lighter and "greed takes over."

    As a self-made businessman whose parents mortgaged their home to help finance his first fish farm, Mr. Braanaas is proud of the company he has built and of the employment it provides in a remote part of Europe. And he believes some of its critics are motivated by a sentimental reverence for one particular species of fish.

    "In India, they have the holy cow," he said, reflecting over a beer. "In Norway, it's the sacred salmon."



    3)  In Russian City, a Time Capsule to Comrades of the Future

     NOV. 6, 2017





    CHEREPOVETS, Russia — To mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, this industrial city engaged in a little time travel. Its inhabitants came together last week on the main square to read out a message that had been sealed inside a time capsule — to the youth of 2017, from the youth of 1967.

    Fifty years ago, when the citizens of Cherepovets gathered in the same spot, it was to celebrate the achievements of a socioeconomic system they deemed eternal. Pride in its achievements, coupled with an unshakable belief in a future under socialism, infused a letter that they slipped inside a steel capsule and placed in a hollow monolith brought to the square.

    "Today we are building Communism, and you will live under it," they wrote. "Our message to your generation: Stay true to Communism's ideals, and fearless in the fight for the welfare of the working man."

    At last week's ceremony, in a less ideological Russia but a resurgent one, 500 people congregated to hear those words. Camouflage-clad members of the Defense Ministry's "Youth Army" stood in perfect formation, staring steely-eyed ahead as veterans of the Communist youth league, the Komsomol, delivered speeches extolling the continuity of generations.

    The message from 1967, eventually removed from the monolith and preserved in a local museum, elicited not a single smirk. Neither did a new message meant for another audience 50 years from now listing major moments in the city's history and statistics about its regional clout.

    Digital SLR and iPhone cameras snapped as it was placed into a new steel capsule, forged, just like the one before, inside the searing blast furnaces of Severstal, the city's steel plant. From atop a stone plinth a hundred yards away, Lenin looked on.

    A century ago, the tsarist monarchy was toppled and the Russian Empire replaced with a revolutionary socialist system. The October Revolution (which is marked on Nov. 7 because Russia was on a different calendar when it took place), was celebrated as the Soviet Union's foundational myth. The Soviet collapse in 1991 ushered in political and economic turmoil that enabled a select few to become fabulously rich while the majority of people struggled, bringing staggering inequality to a country that until recently could by definition have none.

    President Vladimir V. Putin came to power promising stability, and since 2000 he has sought to merge the various periods of Russia's turbulent past into a 1,000-year linear narrative of progress, with a powerful state as its guarantor.

    In that narrative, there is no place for upheaval or revolt — not for the 19th-century uprising of Russian army officers, not for the decade-long parliamentary system that ended in 1917, and especially not for the revolution itself. A generation socialized in the revolutionary Soviet discourse is growing old under a counterrevolutionary state.

    And so on Tuesday, it is the Communists who will stage a march through Moscow's streets — the Kremlin has shunted off commemoration of the event into academia, funding a series of conferences and art exhibitions throughout the year.

    It is left up to local institutions like museums and city councils, and to Soviet nostalgists, to fill the void. From the village of Filaretovka in Russia's Far East to Sevastopol in annexed Crimea, messages buried in time capsules are being read out. And in some cases, their authors are there to witness the scene.

    Valery Belyayev is one of them. Born in 1941 in a village 40 miles from Cherepovets, Mr. Belyayev grew up desperately poor. He was 2 months old when his father left to fight the Nazis in Stalingrad, in a battle that would claim two million lives.

    Throughout the postwar years, Mr. Belyayev watched life in Cherepovets improve, and it was as the 25-year-old deputy head of the city's Komsomol committee that he helped write the message that was placed in the monolith there back in 1967.

    He could not have known then that everything he believed in would fall apart.

    "We were convinced that if we could transform our lives at such speed, then of course in 50 years a new era would arrive — we had absolutely no doubt," Mr. Belyayev said the morning after the message was read aloud to a new generation, as he and other former Komsomol members reminisced, as they often do, inside their community center.

    In Cherepovets, a gritty factory town about 300 miles east of St. Petersburg, Komsomol veterans like Mr. Belyayev have their own disco nights, their own clubs and funding from the mayor's office for events that resurrect a bygone era. For them, the Soviet Union represented a noble idea, and the Komsomol — whose membership reached over 40 million by 1991 — was its social underpinning.

    For 17-year-old Andrei Tolokontsev, a member of the Youth Army who took part in the ceremony in Cherepovets, the Soviet Union was a bloc of brotherly nations. Mr. Tolokontsev has lived all his life under Mr. Putin's rule, and for him the letters U.S.S.R. conjure up images of the Soviet emblem and its hammer-and-sickle flag, and of the ruthless wartime leader — Stalin — whom the young man credits with the country's development.

    Standing in the ranks of the Youth Army, which was begun in 2016 by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, means keeping the Komsomol legacy alive, Mr. Tolokontsev said. He hopes to stand in the same spot in 50 years as an army veteran, in a powerful Russia at peace with the world.

    "They told us what we should and shouldn't do in the future," he said. "And we wish the same for the generation to come. The situation in the world is tense now, but everything will be resolved."

    Cherepovets was a village when Stalin ordered the construction of the steel plant that transformed it into an industrial center of the north. Severstal opened the steel mill in 1955 and has powered the city's economy since, with steady global demand for the metal helping it weather economic upheaval after the Soviet collapse and the recent Western sanctions against Russia.

    Today much in the city has changed. There are shiny shopping malls, and a refurbished bus station is opening. But on the outskirts, a creaky tram still courses at 15-minute intervals along a track that runs between crumbling Soviet-era housing blocks and the mighty smokestacks that dominate the skyline, shuttling workers across the plant's sprawling territory.

    With the speeches over and the new time capsule sealed, the crowd left to escape the cold. Mr. Belyayev made his way to the old movie theater across the square, joining fellow Komsomol veterans as they crowded into its auditorium.

    They donned commemorative medals and called each other "comrade," then sat bright-eyed and nostalgic as a choir sang songs about a Soviet youth: "Let one misfortune after another threaten us, but my friendship with you will only die when I die myself …"

    Across town, Marina Gorbunova showed visitors around the history museum. An exhibition on the revolution had opened, and Ms. Gorbunova told stories about young men from Cherepovets who left to fight in the civil war that followed the Bolsheviks' overthrow of the provisional government.

    "The dream was to abolish class differences, for us all to be equal," she said. "And now it's the way it used to be. There's a class of the poor, the middle class and the rich. What was all the blood, hunger and cold for?"

    Asked about the enduring strength of Soviet nostalgia, she paused to reflect. "Youth is always a source of joy," she said. "It always seems to us that things were better then."

    The new time capsule will be kept in this museum, stowed away until a new generation, with a new set of ideals, gathers to hear its message.



    4)  Justices Allow Execution of Inmate Who Cannot Recall His Crime

     NOV. 6, 2017




    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the execution of an Alabama inmate who, after several strokes, cannot remember the 1985 murder that sent him to death row.

    The court's opinion was unanimous, and there were no noted dissents. But three of the court's more liberal justices filed concurring opinions saying the case presented a substantial legal question to which the court should return.

    The inmate, Vernon Madison, was sentenced to death for killing Julius Schulte. In 2016, as Mr. Madison's execution neared, he asked the state trial court to suspend his death sentence because he said could not remember what he had done.

    In a concurring opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer described Mr. Madison's current condition: "He is legally blind. His speech is slurred. He cannot walk independently. He is incontinent. His disability leaves him without a memory of his commission of a capital offense."

    A court-appointed psychologist and one hired by Mr. Madison's lawyers generally agreed that he understood what he was accused of and how the state planned to punish him. But Mr. Madison's psychologist found that Mr. Madison could not recall his crime and believed that he "never went around killing folks."

    A state trial judge allowed the execution to proceed, and a federal judge agreed. But a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled that executing an inmate who could not remember what he had done would violate the Constitution.

    The Supreme Court has barred the execution of people who lack a "rational understanding" of the reason they are to be put to death. The appeals court ruled that had Mr. Madison met that standard.

    "Due to his dementia and related memory impairments, Mr. Madison lacks a rational understanding of the link between his crime and his execution," Judge Beverly B. Martin wrote for the majority. "A person does not rationally understand his punishment if he is simply blindly accepting what he has been told."

    In dissent, Judge Adalberto Jordan agreed that Mr. Madison was mentally incompetent. But Judge Jordan said federal courts could not hear his challenge in light of a 1996 law that limits post-conviction challenges.

    In Monday's unsigned opinion in the case, Dunn v. Madison, No. 17-193, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Madison could not satisfy the 1996 law, which allows post-conviction challenges in federal court only when the state court had acted unreasonably in assessing the evidence or had run afoul of "clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court."

    In a concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, agreed that the question of "whether a state may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of his commission of a capital offense is a substantial question not yet addressed by the court."

    "Appropriately presented," Justice Ginsburg wrote, "the issue would warrant full airing."

    In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Breyer returned to two themes he has been exploring for years. First, he said "the unconscionably long periods of time that prisoners often spend on death row awaiting execution" may present a constitutional problem.

    His second point was broader.

    "Rather than develop a constitutional jurisprudence that focuses upon the special circumstances of the aged, however," Justice Breyer wrote, "I believe it would be wiser to reconsider the root cause of the problem — the constitutionality of the death penalty itself."



    5)  New York Today: A Century of Women Voting

    By   NOV. 6, 2017




    Good morning on this muddled Monday.

    One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote in New York.

    "We think of it as a simple wave-that-banner, raise-that-picket, but it was very complicated politically," said Elaine Weiss, the author of "The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote."

    The country's first women's rights convention, organized by the suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, was in 1848 in upstate Seneca Falls, N.Y. But it wasn't until 1917 when women here won the right to vote — a breakthrough 70 years and three generations in the making.

    A few of the women who led the way:

    Louisine Havemeyer was an art collector whose celebrated collection can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her husband ran an enormously lucrative sugar business in Brooklyn, and Ms. Havemeyer used the fortune to help fund the suffrage movement.

    "She doesn't just write the check, but is out there on the barricade," Ms. Weiss said.

    In 1917, World War I was going on, and women were questioning how the United States could be fighting to make the world safe for democracy when not all Americans could vote. Ms. Havemeyer, a big fund-raiser for the war, said, "I can't ask for money for a war for democracy, when women who demand true democracy at home are thrown in prison." (She was referring to Alice Paul and other suffragists who persevered after being jailed and tortured.)

    Carrie Chapman Catt was the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which had its headquarters on Madison Avenue.

    She pledged the loyalty of suffragists to the war effort to show their patriotism, and to show women should have the right to vote, Ms. Weiss explained. "If the suffragists say they're going to work for the war effort, whether that's rolling bandages for the Red Cross or raising money or going out into the field as nurses, that will make it much harder for Congress or anyone else to say they don't deserve the vote," she said of Ms. Catt's strategy.

    Other suffragists (like Susan B. Anthony and Alva Vanderbilt Belmont) and "suffragents" helped make the referendum a reality here. Ms. Weiss called New York "the linchpin" that put our country on the path to pass the 19th Amendment in 1920, granting women across the United States the right to vote.

    A century later, the work continues.

    "All of these issues we're dealing with now — voter suppression and voter rights and racial bigotry — they all come up in the fight for suffragists," Ms. Weiss added. "It's a lesson for today; it's not just history."

    With that, a friendly reminder that tomorrow is Election Day.

    New York City voters will choose our next mayor — Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, or Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican — and elect City Council members, the public advocate, and the district attorney for Brooklyn. In New Jersey, voters will be deciding who will replace Chris Christie in the race for governor.



    6) Investors Worldwide Size Up Palace Intrigue in Oil-Rich Kingdom

     NOV. 5, 2017




    Just two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia gathered the global business elite in Riyadh, promising a new age for the oil-rich kingdom as it sought to court overseas money and investment.

    But late on Saturday, the kingdom showed its old face of palace intrigue, with the arrests of four ministers and 11 princes, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire who is one of the country's most public investment figures.

    International investors and business executives are now trying to interpret the power play.

    To some, the arrests portend a quick consolidation of authority under the young, reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wants to vault the country to modernity. In that way, the arrests are viewed as a sign that the crown prince will be able to push through his ambitious economic agenda, including selling off shares in the giant state oil company.

    To others, the arrests point to the potential for political tumult that could lead to the collapse of his entire project. Overseas investors have been reluctant to plow money into a country where the rule of law is weak and the ruling family trumps all.

    "It might have good consequences for stability maybe, or just the opposite," said Dragan Vuckovic, president of Mediterranean International, an oil service company that does business across the Middle East and North Africa. "It's questionable what is happening behind the scenes, it is a very secretive society."

    The arrests came at an awkward time for the kingdom.

    Prince Mohammed recently invited more than 3,500 investors, corporate chief executives, and leaders of nongovernmental organizations to Riyadh for a three-day conference intended to promote future business opportunities. Officials promised that the public offering of the state oil company, Saudi Aramco, would go forward and that the sovereign wealth fund would soon rank among the richest in the world with more than $400 billion in assets by 2020. They pledged to build a utopian megacity on a stretch of deserted land that would attract capital and talent from all over the world.

    The conference attracted a slew of senior executives and officials, including Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of the Japanese technology company SoftBank; and Blackstone's chief executive, Stephen Schwarzman. Some of the attendees spoke highly of Crown Prince Mohammed's economic ambitions. The planned initial public offering of Aramco, they noted, could free government capital to spend on urban investment and job development. Cultural changes like granting women the right to drivecould encourage Western companies to invest in or start operations in Saudi Arabia.

    Despite the goodwill, few had backed the effort with time and money. And the weekend's arrests could add to that reluctance. But they could also change some perceptions, if the crown prince can eventually show a broader commitment to shaking up an entrenched royal bureaucracy.

    "I think this is going to slow things down, but if the gambit is successful it will help," said Charif Souki, chairman of Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas company now attempting to make energy deals with Saudi Arabia. Speaking of Crown Crown Prince Mohammed, he said, "Once he has consolidated power, he will do what he wants to do, which is to modernize the country and modernize Islam, which are all good things. But it might be very dangerous and it might not work."

    Even before the arrests, investors didn't quite know what to make of the kingdom.

    Saudi Arabia has unveiled a sweeping economic reconstruction called Vision 2030, intended to diversify the country's employment beyond oil. The cornerstone of the economic effort is the proposed initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, which exchanges around the world have been vying to secure. In a tweet just hours before the arrests, President Trump said he would appreciate it if the Saudi Aramco public offering took place on the New York Stock Exchange.

    The crown prince and his father, King Salman, have also won praise from local and international business leaders for their promises to return the kingdom to the kind of religious moderation that was more prevalent before a period of religious and sectarian unrest in 1979, when the royal family began to rely on conservative Islamic clerics to guarantee stability. They have had the temerity to take on the religious police and begin rolling back some social policies.

    But Saudi Arabia has also faced unusual turbulence, complete with the sacking of two crown princes, a costly war in Yemen and a confrontation with Qatar. The weak price of oil has amplified the financial stress in the kingdom. The government has been forced to cut benefits for highly paid civil servants.

    There remains a great deal of skepticism that the economic re-engineering can be pulled off, in part because much of the royal family and old guard have been made rich from payments by Saudi Aramco, whose books are essentially closed to the public. That is one reason there is growing talk that the Saudis will eventually turn to China, rather than the London or New York stock exchanges, to get around Western regulators and raise capital for Saudi Aramco.

    "I don't see them get investor interest unless they can produce a set of financial books that have been audited to Western accounting standards," said Nancy T. Schmitt, president of Taum Sauk Investments, a firm based in New York that specializes in energy. "If this is a step to getting to that, then this is a good thing. But I don't know that because I can't read the palace intrigue."

    The arrests just make it harder to sort through the business climate.

    Some interpreted the arrests as being disturbingly arbitrary. One of the officials arrested was the former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a Saudi Aramco board member. Another was Adel Fakieh, an early drafter of the crown prince's reforms, who was ousted from his post of economy minister earlier Saturday.

    "I don't think it sends a particularly good signal to investors," said Rachel Ziemba, managing director for emerging markets at Roubini Global Economics, a research firm in New York.

    There is another school of thought among business leaders and analysts that the arrests were part of an effort to make the Saudi Aramco offering and other reforms unstoppable. In that way, it would be the sort of proof that the crown prince has the power to get his agenda done.

    "This is just the kind of determination and commitment that is called for," said Sadad al-Husseini, former executive vice president of Saudi Aramco.

    Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, who attended the Riyadh conference, was somewhat more circumspect. "Does this scare off a pension fund or can this be sold as creating the necessary conditions of success?" she asked. "It's a high-stakes game."



    7) What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

    By   NOV. 7, 2017




    What Explains Mass Shootings

    The top-line numbers suggest a correlation that, on further investigation, grows only clearer.

    Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world's guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

    Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world's second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.

    Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country's rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society's access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

    What Doesn't: Crime, Race or Mental Health

    If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

    A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.

    Whether a population plays more or fewer video games also appears to have no impact. Americans are no more likely to play video games than people in any other developed country.

    Racial diversity or other factors associated with social cohesion also show little correlation with gun deaths. Among European countries, there is little association between immigration or other diversity metrics and the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.

    A Violent Country

    America's gun homicide rate was 33 per million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries. In Canada and Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds with differences in gun ownership.

    Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley.

    Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

    They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of American violence, came down to guns.

    More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

    This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence.

    Mass Shootings Happen Everywhere

    Skeptics of gun control sometimes point to a 2016 study. From 2000 and 2014, it found, the United States death rate by mass shooting was 1.5 per one million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting American mass shootings were not actually so common.

    But the same study found that the United States had 133 mass shootings. Finland had only two, which killed 18 people, and Switzerland had one, which killed 14. In short, isolated incidents. So while mass shootings can happen anywhere, they are only a matter of routine in the United States.

    As with any crime, the underlying risk is impossible to fully erase. Any individual can snap or become entranced by a violent ideology. What is different is the likelihood that this will lead to mass murder.

    In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

    By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

    Beyond the Statistics

    In 2013, American gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. That same year in Japan, a country with one-third America's population, guns were involved in only 13 deaths.

    This means an American is about 300 times more likely to die by gun homicide or accident than a Japanese person. America's gun ownership rate is 150 times as high as Japan's. That gap between 150 and 300 shows that gun ownership statistics alone do not explain what makes America different.

    The United States also has some of the world's weakest controls over who may buy a gun and what sorts of guns may be owned.

    Switzerland has the second-highest gun ownership rate of any developed country, about half that of the United States. Its gun homicide rate in 2004 was 7.7 per million people — unusually high, in keeping with the relationship between gun ownership and murders, but still a fraction of the rate in the United States.

    Swiss gun laws are more stringent, setting a higher bar for securing and keeping a license, for selling guns and for the types of guns that can be owned. Such laws reflect more than just tighter restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must affirmatively earn the right to own.

    The Difference Is Culture

    The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.

    The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.

    After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 incident. But the United States has repeatedly faced the same calculus and determined that relatively unregulated gun ownership is worth the cost to society.

    That choice, more than any statistic or regulation, is what most sets the United States apart.

    "In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate," Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twittertwo years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. "Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over."



    8)  About 2,500 Nicaraguans to Lose Special Permission to Live in U.S.

     NOV. 6, 2017




    WASHINGTON — Thousands of immigrants from Nicaragua who came to the United States illegally, many of them decades ago, will lose special permission allowing them to stay in the country, the Trump administration said on Monday.

    However, officials from the Department of Homeland Security said the effective date of termination would be delayed one year, until Jan. 5, 2019, to give about 2,500 individuals time to leave the country or adjust their immigration status.

    The program allowing them to stay, Temporary Protected Status, was enacted by Congress in 1990 to protect foreigners, particularly Central Americans, fleeing war, natural disasters or catastrophes and was extended to Haitians after the 2010 earthquake.

    Officials said that Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security, had not made a decision on hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras who are also covered under the program. The department had until Monday to extend or terminate the program for Nicaragua and Honduras. Ms. Duke, saying she did not have enough information, said she would continue to review protections for Hondurans. The temporary protective status covering immigrants from Honduras will be extended for at least six months, through July 5.

    The Trump administration said that in some cases, the protection for foreigners has stretched into decades, and the Departments of State and Homeland Security decided that the living conditions in their home countries had improved enough for them to return. The administration and some allied lawmakers, including Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said the immigrants received public benefits and took jobs that might otherwise be filled by unemployed American citizens.

    Many of the more than 300,000 people shielded from deportation under the program have lived in the United States for years and bought homes, embarked on careers and given birth to children who are American citizens.

    Now they face an uncertain future.

    People protected under the program will be given six months to leave after their current permissions expire. The temporary status for the 86,000 Hondurans and 5,000 Nicaraguans in the program expires in early January, and Monday was the deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to decide whether to renew that status. It has until Thanksgiving to decide whether to extend the protection for thousands of Haitians.

    The program covers 10 countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

    The Trump administration's decisions to rescind the temporary protection status for Nicaraguans is part of its effort to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the United States. The administration has moved aggressively to enforce the nation's immigration laws, arresting and deporting those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes and reducing the number of refugees.

    Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates called the move inhumane.

    Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said that sending tens of thousands of people back to Central American nations still recovering from natural disasters or internal strife could destabilize those countries.

    In a statement, Mr. Cardin said the effort was part of the "White House's radical anti-immigration agenda," which ignored an honest assessment of conditions in each of the countries.

    A coalition of immigration groups also criticized the Trump administration for ending the protection.

    "The Trump administration's recommendation to terminate temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of people from all over the globe living in the United States is cruel and shameful," Steven Choi, the executive director for the New York Immigration Coalition, said at a news conference on Monday in New York. "America will not be greater or safer by sending back people who've made their lives here."

    Belinda Osorio, 48, who arrived in 1991 in the United States from Honduras seeking work, said she was relieved the news had not been as bad as she had feared. She had read and heard that her temporary protected status would be cut off immediately.

    Still, it was only a postponement of the panic that was to come.

    "I don't think six months is going to fix anything because what are we going to do after six months?" said Ms. Osorio, a housekeeper at one of the Disney World resort hotels in Orlando, Fla. "We're not going to leave. I'm not going to leave my country. I'm not going to take my kids to a dangerous country."

    She said that she was afraid that if they were forced to return to Honduras, her 14-year-old son would be forced to join a violent gang. Her 72-year-old mother has been threatened by gang members who have demanded money from her, and Ms. Osorio said she feared she and her children, as returnees from the United States, would have it even worse.

    Like many other recipients of temporary protected status, Ms. Osorio built a life here expecting that she would not be forced to return anytime soon. She had married an American citizen, another hotel employee, with whom she had two children; it was through her job that her family had medical insurance. For years, she said, she had been trying to apply for a green card based on her marriage, and she hoped she would succeed before the temporary program expired.

    "At least I have hope with my husband, but there's a lot of people, they don't have nothing. Their only hope is T.P.S.," she said. "It's not fair after so many years working so hard in this country, and they just want to get rid of us just like that."

    John F. Kelly, the former secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, had extended temporary protected status for Haitians in May, giving them an additional six months to stay in the country.

    Salvadorans, who make up about 60 percent of those in the Temporary Protected Status program, were first granted protection in March 2001 after a series of earthquakes in the country. Their protective status will expire next year, on March 9.

    The status is renewed periodically, and recipients have to keep their permits updated to avoid deportation, paying $495 each time. The Obama administration typically granted 18-month waivers.

    Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Representatives Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republicans of Florida, and Representatives Frederica S. Wilson and Alcee L. Hastings, Democrats of Florida, introduced a bill that would try to provide permanent legal status for some Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans.



    9) Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires?

    By Thomas Frank, November 9, 2017


    It's not enough to say, in response to the Paradise Papers revelations, that we already knew that rich people parked their money in offshore tax havens, where their piles accumulate far from the scrutiny of our government. Nor is it enough to say that we were already aware that we live in a time of "inequality."

    What we have learned this week is the clinical definition of the word. What we have learned is how much the rich and the virtuous have been hiding away and where they're hiding it. Yes, there are sinister-looking Russian capitalists involved. But there's also our favorite actors and singers. Our beloved alma mater, supposedly a charitable institution. Everyone with money seems to be in on it.

    We're also learning that maybe we've had it backwards all along. Tax havens on some tropical island aren't some sideshow to western capitalism; they are a central reality. Those hidden billions are like an unseen planet whose gravity is pulling our politics and our economy always in a certain direction. And this week we finally began to understand what that uncharted planet looks like; we started to grasp its mass and its power.

    Think about it like this. For decades Americans have been erupting in anger at what they can see happening to their beloved middle-class world. We think we know what the culprit is; we can see it vaguely through a darkened glass. It's "elitism". It's a "rigged system". It's people who think they're better than us. And for decades we have lashed out. At the immigrant next door. At Jews. At Muslims. At school teachers. At public workers who are still paid a decent wage. Our fury, unrelenting, grows and grows.

    We revolt, but it turns out we have chosen the wrong political leader. We revolt again; this time, the leader is even worse.

    This week we are coming face to face with a big part of the right answer: it's that the celebrities and business leaders we have raised up above ourselves would like to have nothing to do with us. Yes, they are grateful for the protection of our laws. Yes, they like having the police and the marine corps on hand to defend their property.

    Yes, they eat our food and breathe our air and expect us to keep these pure and healthy; they demand that we get educated before we may come and work for them, and for that purpose they expect us to pay for a vast system of public schools. They also expect us to watch their movies, to buy their products, to use their software. They expect our (slowly declining) middle class to be their loyal customers.

    But those celebrities and business types would prefer not to do what it takes to support all this. That burden's on us. Oh, they're happy to haul billions out of our economy and use us up in the workplace, but maintaining the machinery that keeps it all running – that's on us.

    I don't want to go too far here. I know that what the billionaires and the celebrities have done is legal. They merely took advantage of the system. It's the system itself, and the way it was deliberately constructed to achieve these awful ends, that should be the target of our fury.

    For decades Americans have lashed out against taxation because they were told that cutting taxes would give people an incentive to work harder and thus make the American economy flourish. Our populist leaders told us this – they're telling us this still, as they reform taxes in Washington – and they rolled back the income tax, they crusaded against the estate tax, and they worked to keep our government from taking action against offshore tax havens.

    In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person's freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire's freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours.

    Think, for a moment, of how this country has been starved so the holders of these offshore accounts might enjoy their private jets in peace. Think of what we might have done with the sums we have lost to these tax strategies over the decades. All the crumbling infrastructure that politicians love to complain about: it should have – and could have - been fixed long ago.


    Think of all the young people saddled with catastrophic student-loan debt: we should have – could have – made that unnecessary. Think of all the decayed small towns, and the dying rust belt cities, and the drug-addicted hopeless: all of them should have – could have – been helped. 

    But no. Instead America chose a different project. Our leaders raised up a tiny class of otherworldly individuals and built a paradise for them, made their lives supremely delicious. Today they hold unimaginable and unaccountable power. 

    We endure potholes and live in fear of collapsing highway bridges because our leaders wanted these very special people to have an even larger second yacht. Our kids sit in overcrowded classrooms in underfunded schools so that a handful of exalted individuals can relax on their own private beach. 

    Today it is these same golden figures with their offshore billions who host the fundraisers, hire the lobbyists, bankroll the think tanks and subsidize the artists and intellectuals. 

    This is their democracy today. We just happen to live in it. 

    • Thomas Frank is a Guardian columnist



    10) Facebook Is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News

    NOV. 10, 2017




    Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook, testifying on Capitol Hill last week.CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

    Last year, just weeks before the election, an article from a site called Mad World News began circulating around Facebook. The headline read "Before Applauding Hillary's Abortion Remarks, Know the One Fact She Ignored."

    In the article, the writer says she wants to expose Hillary Clinton's lies about late-term abortions. She argues that a baby never needs to be aborted to save a mother's life but doesn't cite any sources or studies, and presents anecdotes and opinion as fact. Midway through the story, she shares an illustration of what she calls a "Partial-Birth Procedure" — a procedure banned in the United States. In it, she describes how a doctor "jams scissors into the baby's skull" and how "the child's brains are sucked out."

    "Don't let these lies kill another child in such a horrific manner," she says, concluding the piece. The article was engaged with at least 1.1 million times, making it the most-shared article about abortion on Facebook last year, according to BuzzSumo, a company that tracks social sharing.

    Last week, the company's general counsel appeared before Congress alongside his counterparts from Twitter and Google to testify on the company's role in distributing misinformation ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Facebook says it's taking "fake news" seriously. It has a label for "disputed" stories, brought in independent fact-checking partners and allows users to report false articles.

    It's not clear whether these attempts to tackle misinformation will work; critics have called them ineffective and slow. But there's another problem, too. So far, Facebook and the public have focused almost solely on politics and Russian interference in the United States election. What they haven't addressed is the vast amount of misinformation and unevidenced stories about reproductive rights, science and health.

    Evidence-based, credible articles about abortion from reputable news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post didn't make it to the top of the list of "most shared" articles on Facebook last year, according to BuzzSumo. But articles from the site LifeNews.com did.

    LifeNews, which has just under one million followers on Facebook, is one of several large anti-abortion sites that can command hundreds of thousands of views on a single post. These sites produce vast amounts of misinformation; the Facebook page for the organization Live Action, for instance, has two million Facebook followers and posts videos claiming there's a correlation between abortion and breast cancer. And their stories often generate more engagement than the content produced by mainstream news organizations, said Sharon Kann, the program director for abortion rights and reproductive health at Media Matters, a watchdog group. People on Facebook engage with anti-abortion content more than abortion-rights content at a "disproportionate rate," she said, which, as a result of the company's algorithms, means more people see it.

    Facebook's current initiatives to crack down on fake news can, theoretically, be applicable to misinformation on other issues. However, there are several human and technical barriers that prevent misinformation about reproductive rights from being identified, checked and removed at the same — already slow — rate as other misleading stories.

    First, the question of what's considered a "fake news" site is not always black and white. Facebook says it has been tackling the sources of fake news by eliminating the ability to "spoof" domains and by deleting Facebook pages linked to spam activity. For example, this year Facebook identified and deleted more than 30 pages owned by Macedonian publishers, who used them to push out fake stories about United States politics, after alarms had been sounded about sites in the country spreading misinformation about the 2016 campaign. (Facebook says some of the sites may have been taken down for other terms-of-service violations.) But anti-abortion sites are different. They do not mimic real publications, and they publish pieces on real events alongside factually incorrect or thinly sourced stories, which helps blur the line between what's considered a news blog and "fake news."

    Second, Facebook says one of its key aims in tackling fake news is to remove the profit incentive, because it says "most false news is financially motivated." It says it hopes to do that by making it more difficult for the people behind the fake news sites to buy ads on its platform and by detecting and deleting spam accounts, which it says are a major force behind the spread of misinformation.

    However, the incentive for the people who write content for anti-abortion news sites and Facebook pages is ideological, not financial. Anti-abortion, anti-science content isn't being written by spammers hoping to make money, but by ordinary people who are driven by religious or political beliefs. Their aim isn't to profit from ads. It's to convince readers of their viewpoint: that abortion is morally wrong, that autism is caused by vaccines or that climate change isn't real.

    Finally, public pressure influences where Facebook directs its attention. Facebook may be focused on fake news and the United States election now, but its efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation in the buildup to the election were practically nonexistent. It took action only after intense scrutiny.

    Now Facebook and its fact-checking partners say its focus is "on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain." Simply put, without increased pressure, Facebook's technical efforts and its human efforts, like fact-checkers' trawling through flagged content, make it likely that the company, in the months to come, will be seeking out only the "obvious" flags of fake news stories and not the misinformation that is fueled by real people with no financial incentive. That is why those of us who are concerned by the misinformation around reproductive rights need to make ourselves heard.

    The Irish government says it will hold a referendum next year on whether to relax the country's strict ban on abortion. Some abortion-rights campaigners have expressed concern over the role of misinformation on social media platforms like Facebook in the lead-up to the vote, but it's far from clear whether those concerns are being listened to.

    Curbing the spread of fake news is no easy task, and Facebook says it cannot "become arbiters of truth" in the fight against fake news. But at the very least, the company can address its continuing role in inadvertently spreading false information about issues that go beyond the United States election and Russia.




    11)  Puerto Rico's Second-Class Treatment on Food Aid

    NOV. 9, 2017





    Of all Puerto Rico's continuing miseries seven weeks after Hurricane Maria's devastation, the most blatantly unjust is that islanders have been denied the more generous and swifter food relief distributed to storm victims this year in Texas and Florida under the emergency food stamp program.

    Yes, both the island and mainland victims are United States citizens. But not all citizens are created equal: A 35-year-old congressional budget cap on Puerto Rico's food stamp program has limited the amount of disaster aid immediately available. Texas and Florida have no such federal restraints and were able to quickly increase food stamp help in the face of the hurricane damage last summer.

    It is hard to argue with Puerto Rican officials pointing to the disparity as painful evidence of a colonial second-class status suffered by citizens of this American territory, citizens who lack political clout, voting representation in Congress or a say in who's in the White House.

    Puerto Rico already was fighting bankruptcy before the hurricane hit. Since then, nearly 60 percent of the island's power generation remains offline, its tourist and farming economies have been crippled and 100,000 of its 3.4 million residents joined a growing exodus to the mainland (where they at least will gain full federal voting rights). It will take months more to install temporary tarps on the roofs of tens of thousands of ruined houses and import more than 50,000 utility power poles and 6,500 miles of cable. There is also disturbing evidence, as Frances Robles reported in The Times, that the lack of power may be killing the very sick and the very old in overheated hospitals and nursing homes. Officials say 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year.

    The head of the island's financial oversight panel appointed by Congress warned this week that recovery will fail without "an unprecedented scale" of emergency funds from the federal government — tens of billions of dollars to restore housing, water and electric power, and to repair infrastructure.

    Food stamp aid was particularly needed in the weeks right after the disaster. But Puerto Rican officials were hobbled in offering emergency increases both to needy families already receiving aid and to others plunged into temporary need by the hurricane's destruction. Unlike the states, the island cannot resort to the disaster relief section of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — the formal name of the food stamp program — even though all of the island was designated as a federal disaster area.

    Such a one-time emergency disbursement would have averaged $478, twice the normal monthly benefit for food stamp families, according to The Washington Post. But congressional leaders contended in 1982 that the island's reliance on food stamps was excessive and instituted a separate, tighter block grant system for Puerto Rico. It is capped this year at $1.9 billion, and has already been depleted.

    As the island continues to reel, the hope is that $1.27 billion for two years of extra food stamp funding will eventually arrive under a relief package signed last month by President Trump. It would have been far better for island residents if this aid had been on tap as soon as the disaster hit, as it was in Florida and Texas. In Florida, $1.2 billion was spent on emergency food stamp help after Hurricane Irma.

    President Trump is probably no more interested in this than he's been in any of the island's problems. " … We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" he tweeted a month ago. You know who must feel like it's been forever? Hungry Puerto Ricans.



    12) A Tax Loophole for the Rich That Just Won't Die

    By   NOV. 9, 2017




    Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said this week that he would seek to extend the holding period for assets that qualified for the carried interest tax break.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times 

    After the billionaire investor Warren Buffett exposed the unfairness of a federal tax code that assessed his secretary at a higher rate than him, it was hard to imagine a tax reform plan that would be even less fair.

    House Republicans have come up with one.

    That's not because the plan indiscriminately favors the rich. It's because to a degree unprecedented in American tax history, it favors the investor class, Mr. Buffett prominent among them, at the expense of people who work for a living, like his secretary.

    It favors Donald Trump and his fellow real estate developers and investors, who already benefit from numerous loopholes in the tax code.

    "I wouldn't call this tax reform," said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

    There is no more glaring example of the House Republicans' indifference to the inequities embedded in the tax code than the treatment of so-called carried interest. For decades, the carried interest provision has enabled wealthy private equity managers, hedge fund managers and real estate investors to pay the lower capital gains rate (20 percent, not counting the Obama health care surcharge of 3.8 percent) on their income rather than the rate on ordinary income (a maximum of 39.6 percent).

    The former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was excoriated for taking advantage of the loophole in 2012, and as a candidate Mr. Trump repeatedly promised to close it.

    "The hedge fund guys didn't build this country," Mr. Trump said in 2015. "These are guys that shift paper around, and they get lucky."

    "They are energetic," he added. "They are very smart. But a lot of them — it's like, they are paper pushers. They make a fortune. They pay no tax. It's ridiculous, O.K.?"

    Yet in the House plan unveiled last week, and in the Senate plan released Thursday, the carried interest loophole emerged unscathed.

    The proposed legislation "is a home run for private equity investors," said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego who has spent years arguing (persuasively, in my view) that the loophole should be closed. "If you were designing something that perfectly avoids hitting private equity, venture capital and real estate, this would be it." (Mr. Fleischer is also a contributor to The New York Times.)

    This week, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, said he would address concerns about the loophole by seeking to extend the holding period for assets that qualified for the tax break from one year to three years. That's better than doing nothing, and might affect some hedge funds. But they could easily qualify simply by holding the assets for more than three years.

    Mr. Brady's tweak would have no impact at all on most private equity managers, who typically buy companies, restructure and refinance them, and then sell them, usually after seven to 10 years. Most real estate partnerships have similar holding periods. And Mr. Brady said explicitly that the revision would preserve the carried interest provision for real estate interests.

    "The amendment will encourage and reward long-term investment while also applying equally to all sources of growth capital — no matter if that investment is provided by hedge funds, private equity, venture capital or otherwise," Shane McDonald, a spokesman for Mr. Brady, told me. "By providing a three-year holding period on certain assets, this amendment strikes the right balance for economic growth and fairness without stifling investment in American entrepreneurship."

    But the primary argument against the carried interest loophole isn't that those who benefit from it don't hold their assets long enough. It's that the "carry" — the percentage of an investment's gains that the manager takes as compensation — should be treated as a payment for services and taxed like regular income, and not be viewed as a return on invested capital, in which the manager has put assets at risk.

    "The real issue is that carried interest is compensation for services performed for the investment fund," Mr. Fleischer said. "The theory behind the Republican plan is that somehow, holding something for a longer period of time makes it more like a financial investment. But why would that be the case?

    "If you write a book, and it takes three or four years before you earn a royalty, that doesn't make the income a capital gain," he continued. "If a movie takes three years to generate a return, that doesn't make it a capital gain. There's no reason why financial services should be any different."

    Proponents of the loophole, most of whom benefit from it one way or another, have long argued that the lower tax rate encourages risk taking and hence economic growth, an argument that Republican lawmakers appear to have embraced.

    But there's little empirical support for the position.

    Mr. Fleischer argues that the proposed tax bill — by slashing the corporate and pass-through tax rates and preserving the lower rate for capital gains — already heavily favors risk taking and investment.

    "We don't need to further subsidize people who go to work in this sector by giving them a lower tax rate," he said. "There's no shortage of people who want to go into private equity and earn millions or billions of dollars."

    The rationale, he said, "is absurd."

    That the carried interest provision survived, despite Mr. Trump's campaign statements and populist hostility to it, appears to be a testament to the enduring influence that Wall Street and wealthy investors exert over both the White House and Congress.

    Some of Mr. Trump's most prominent backers and donors come from the world of private equity, hedge funds and real estate partnerships, among them Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the powerhouse firm Blackstone; Wilbur Ross, the former private equity executive who is now secretary of commerce; Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., executive chairman of Colony Northstar, a real estate investment trust, and chairman of the president's inauguration committee; Betsy DeVos, a co-founder of the Windquest Group and now secretary of education; and Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus CapitalManagement and a Trump donor and adviser. And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mr. Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, are prominent alumni of Goldman Sachs, which has a range of hedge fund and private equity clients.

    More broadly, preserving the break for carried interest fits into the overarching theme of the Republican tax plan: that what is good for investors is good for economic growth, which in turn is good for everyone, including the working poor. That's why the proposed code is tilted so heavily toward investors rather than people who earn salaries or compensation for services rendered.

    That's also why it's imprecise to say the proposed code benefits the "rich." While most rich people are also investors, and thus will benefit disproportionately, not all rich people will benefit. People with high incomes generated primarily by their own labor or services may actually see their federal tax increase, especially if they lose their deductions for state and local taxes. The proposed code specifically names lawyers, doctors, athletes and performers — all of whom work for a living — as ineligible for the lower pass-through rate.

    The plan "is a tax increase on the working upper middle class and the rich in states like California, New York and New Jersey in order to benefit the people who own pass-through entities and are shareholders," Mr. Fleischer said.

    Tax reform advocates generally agree that a fair code shouldn't single out certain groups for favorable treatment at the expense of others. There is already widespread resentment that ultrarich investment managers pay such low rates — nowhere near the top 39.6 percent rate.

    Closing the loophole may promote fairness, but it wouldn't do much to help the overall budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating it would generate $17 billion over 10 years, a drop in the bucket given that Republicans have been trying to close a budget gap in the trillions. Mr. Fleischer contends that the figure is much higher, more like $180 billion over 10 years. Even that is a modest down payment on the larger cuts the tax plan calls for.

    But as a symbol, the carried interest loophole looms large, calling into question the fairness of the entire proposed tax code. That's a shame, since large elements of the proposal have widespread bipartisan support. (Even former President Barack Obama agreed that the corporate tax rate needed to be lowered for the United States to be competitive.)

    There's still a chance that lawmakers will eliminate the loophole as the bill moves through Congress.

    Mr. Rosenthal said he wasn't holding his breath. Republicans seem to be gambling that most Americans won't care about a few rich private equity managers if their own taxes go down, their stock portfolio goes up and economic growth accelerates. "I don't think most Republicans really care about carried interest," he said.



    13) Puerto Rico Power Line Fails; Darkness Returns to San Juan

    NOV. 9, 2017



    A main power line failed Thursday in Puerto Rico, plunging several cities, including San Juan, into darkness. CreditDennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times 

    SAN JUAN, P.R. — A main power line that serves the northern half of Puerto Rico failed Thursday, knocking out electricity to seven cities that had only recently regained service and dealing a major setback to the island's desperate efforts to regain normality.

    Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria completely disabled Puerto Rico's power grid, the island was generating just 18 percent of its electrical capacity, returning service to where it had been two and half weeks ago. On Thursday morning, the island had been at about 43.2 percent of capacity.

    The disruption also meant that many people no longer had running water, because pumping stations are powered by electricity.

    "We're all in the dark," said Maritza Cuprill, 54, a property manager whose San Juan condominium got its power back a week ago, only to lose it again on Thursday. "I was in Walgreens and everything suddenly went pitch black. The first thing I thought of was my vehicle: I filled up the tank for just in case. That was devastating when we had to wait in lines for five, six and seven hours."

    Ms. Cuprill was not worried about any food purchases: she had not been foolhardy enough to buy perishables. Many areas where the power had returned had suffered continuous glitches, damaging appliances and fraying nerves.

    "I buy food every day," Ms. Cuprill said. "I don't trust what they say. They say the power will be back in 19 hours. I will believe that when I see it."

    In a statement Thursday afternoon, the Puerto Rican government said that workers had made progress toward the repairs and that equipment was being put in place to restore the service.

    "We have maximum interest in resolving this and energizing the metropolitan area again," Justo González, director of generation for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, said in a Facebook Live video. "We will be resolving this problem soon."

    Mr. González said the electric company, known as Prepa, would focus first on bringing the lights back to hospitals, airports, fire stations and areas that are crucial to the economy. He said the most affected areas were in the San Juan metropolitan area, including the cities of Vega Baja, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Manatí, Bayamón, San Juan and areas near Canóvanas.

    The power failure was the latest blow for Puerto Rico's beleaguered and bankrupt power company, which has been criticized for awarding a small Montana firm a $300 million contract to fix power lines that included highly unusual clauses that prohibited any audits. Several congressional committees are investigating the deal, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has vowed not to pay for it.

    The government was forced to cancel the contract, and the company, Whitefish Energy Holdings, is scheduled to leave at the end of the month. A spokesman for the company said none of the issues concerning the power failure were related to repairs that Whitefish had performed.

    "Puerto Rico is not rising," Rosita Aponte, who owns a pharmacy in Caguas, said, referring to a popular slogan #PuertoRicoSeLevanta. "When it does rise, it will be empty, because all of the small-business owners will have left."

    Ms. Aponte said the lights went out en masse to all the businesses on her strip.

    "We can't take this anymore," she said. "I have spent $8,000 on broken generators. At this point, 50 days into this, everyone has a broken generator. You are not supposed to be living on these things."



    14) Are Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy? We Look Inside the Box


    Bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios. The serving size for the cereal has shrunk, and with it the stated sugar content. CreditJens Mortensen for The New York Times

    I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It'd been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.

    Honey Nut is America's best-selling breakfast cereal, and by a comfortable margin. Roughly 151 million boxes and other containers of various sizes were sold over the past year, well ahead of the second best-selling breakfast cereal, Frosted Flakes, according to IRI, a Chicago based market research firm.

    I had no idea. The only thing I could think about when I ate it again for the first time in years was how incredibly sweet it is. I looked at the back of the box and could see why. Three of the top six ingredients are sweeteners: sugar, brown sugar and honey.

    Previously, I assumed Honey Nut Cheerios was a slightly sweeter Cheerios, but you learn things when you finally get around to reading the back of the box. It actually has about nine times as much sugar as plain Cheerios, per serving. An Environmental Working Group analysisof a number of popular cereals — a report that linked sugary cereals to the "nation's childhood obesity epidemic" — put Honey Nut Cheerios's sugar content second only to Fruity Pebbles. The same group found that one cup of the cereal had more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.

    I asked General Mills about this, over a period of several days. They did not come to the phone, but responded with a series of communiqués.

    "You mentioned that three of the top six ingredients in Honey Nut Cheerios are sugar, brown sugar and honey," Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for the company, wrote in a statement. "What you didn't mention is that the number one ingredient is oats. To be so singularly focused on one ingredient — sugar — is irresponsible and doesn't help consumers look at the total nutrition offered."

    Honey Nut Cheerios debuted in 1979. The cereal's forebear, Cheerios, originally called Cheerioats, was born in 1941 and has a more favorable nutrition profile. The plain version is low in sugar, "and you're getting some oat fiber that can help lower your cholesterol modestly," said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Unfortunately, that makes the contrast with its spinoffs difficult. Those include far more sugary options like Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. The newest offering, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios, has what looks like sugar flakes on it, but it actually has a lower sugar content than Honey Nut Cheerios.

    "The company has capitalized on the good name of the original," Ms. Liebman said. "We've been saying for years that Honey Nut Cheerios has more sugar than honey and more salt than nuts, in fact it's got no nuts at all, it's just got almond flavor."

    The center has quarreled with General Mills before. It sued the company over health claims made about another Cheerios offshoot, Cheerios Protein.

    General Mills refers to cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios as "presweetened" — putting the sugar, brown sugar and honey into your cereal so you don't have to. Back in 2009, the company made news by announcing an initiative had already been underway to drop the sugar figure into single digits in such cereals marketed to children. In the last decade or so, Honey Nut Cheerios has fallen to nine grams of sugars per serving, from 11. Or so it seems.

    I undertook a review of highly sensitive corporate documents. And by that, I mean I looked at pictures of old cereal boxes on eBay, because apparently there's a market for vintage, flattened cereal boxes. I found a box from 2003 that showed the serving size of Honey Nut Cheerios to be one cup, weighing 30 grams and having 11 grams of sugars. Today, a serving is three-quarters of a cup, and just 28 grams, with nine grams of sugars.

    The serving size of regular Cheerios remains one cup. If Honey Nut Cheerios still had a one cup serving size, the sugar content would be in the double digits.

    General Mills said little about what had happened, or when.

    "There are several reasons that changes in serving size may occur including recipe improvements that may change the density of the cereal or regulation changes," Mr. Siemienas wrote.

    Serving sizes are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and can change if a cereal's density changes. It appears that at some point in the last 10 or 15 years, General Mills tweaked the ingredients of Honey Nut Cheerios in a way that lowered the overall weight per serving, which had the effect of helping lower the stated sugar content. It has not been all smoke and mirrors; the percentage of sugar has decreased slightly as well, though rounding makes it difficult to say by how much.

    "They've tested and tested and tested to try to find out how much sugar they can take out without it affecting sales," said Marion Nestle, an emerita professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. "They must surely be at the cut point."

    She said "you really want" kids "eating a whole grain, higher fiber cereal."

    Speaking for myself, I eat a lot more cereal than three-quarters of a cup. I poured that amount into a bowl. It looked sad. And small. It was an appetizer's worth of Cheerios.

    Don't worry, General Mills. I'll continue to eat Cheerios. But I had to have a difficult conversation with a 12-year-old recently. I broke the news that Honey Nut would not be returning to the cupboard. We'd be sticking with regular Cheerios.

    "Can I just pour honey on it?" he asked.

    He was joking. I think.



    15)  Duterte, Philippine President, Boasts He Killed Someone as a Teenager

    NOV. 10, 2017




    The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, center-right, leaving the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam, on Thursday. CreditMark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

    President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said on Friday that he had stabbed someone to death when he was a teenager, the latest claim from a leader who has boasted of personally killing people while defending a violent crackdown on drugs.

    "When I was a teenager, I had been in and out of jail, rumble here and there," Mr. Duterte said during a speech to Filipinos in Danang, Vietnam. "At the age of 16, I already killed someone."

    He said he had stabbed the person "just over a look," and he asked his audience in Vietnam to imagine what he could do as president.

    "I won't let you off the hook" if you mess around with Filipinos, he said. "Never mind about the human rights advocates."

    Mr. Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said the comment had been meant as a joke. Officials loyal to the president have said he has a tendency to exaggerate.

    "I think it was in jest," Mr. Roque said. "The president uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas," he added, referring to Filipinos.

    The comments came as the leader defended his government's brutal countrywide crackdown on drugs. His speech was met with applause and laughter.

    Mr. Duterte is in Vietnam with dozens of other world leaders for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting.

    In 2015, while he was mayor of Davao City, Mr. Duterte said in an interview with Esquire that he had stabbed someone to death when he was 17 years old. In December 2016, he said that during his time as mayor, he had personally killed at least three people.

    The Philippine leader has been widely criticized for an extrajudicial crackdown on drug dealers and users that has left an estimated 4,000 people dead since May 2016, according to local news outlets.

    Human rights groups have condemned Mr. Duterte, saying the crackdown has allowed police officers and vigilantes to ignore due process and to take justice into their own hands.

    Mr. Duterte is set to meet with President Trump on Sunday in Manila, part of the American president's 12-day tour to several Asian nations. Mr. Trump praised Mr. Duterte this year, congratulating him on the "unbelievable job on the drug program."



    16) Five Places to Go in San Francisco



    17) $300 Billion War Beneath the Street: Fighting to Replace America's Water Pipes

    "Scientists are just starting to understand the effect of plastic on the quality and safety of drinking water, including what sort of chemicals can leach into the water from the pipes themselves, or from surrounding groundwater contamination. Studies have shown that toxic pollutants like benzene and toluene from spills and contaminated soil can permeate certain types of plastic pipes as they age. A 2013 review of research on leaching from plastic pipe identified more than 150 contaminants migrating from plastic pipes into drinking water. ...The uncertainty over potable water pipes of all kinds is exacerbated by a lack of regulation over their safety. There is no federal oversight of the materials or processes used to manufacture plastic water pipes; instead, water pipes are certified and tested by an organization paid for by industry."

    NOV. 10, 2017




    Derek Brahney

    Bursting pipes. Leaks. Public health scares.

    America is facing a crisis over its crumbling water infrastructure, and fixing it will be a monumental and expensive task.

    Two powerful industries, plastic and iron, are locked a lobbying war over the estimated $300 billion that local governments will spend on water and sewer pipes over the next decade.

    It is a battle of titans, raging just inches beneath our feet.

    "Things are moving so fast," said Reese Tisdale, president of the water advisory firm Bluefield Research. And it's a good thing, he says: "There are some pipes in the ground that are 150 years old."

    How the pipe wars play out — in city and town councils, in state capitals, in Washington — will determine how drinking water is delivered to homes across America for generations to come.

    Traditional materials like iron or steel currently make up almost two-thirds of existing municipal water pipe infrastructure. But over the next decade, as much as much as 80 percent of new municipal investment in water pipes could be spent on plastic pipes, Bluefield predicts.

    The outcome of the rivalry will also determine the country's response to an infrastructure challenge of epic proportions.

    By 2020, the average age of the 1.6 million miles of water and sewer pipes in the United States will hit 45 years. Cast iron pipes in at least 600 towns and countries are more than a century old, according to industry estimates. And though Congress banned lead water pipes three decades ago, more than 10 million older ones remain, ready to leach lead and other contaminants into drinking water from something as simple as a change in water source.

    As many as 8,000 children were exposed to unsafe levels of lead in Flint, Mich., after the city switched to a new water supply but failed to properly treat the water with chemicals to prevent its lead pipes from disintegrating. Corroding iron pipes, meanwhile, have been linked to two outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in Flint that added to the public health emergency.

    The plastics industry has seized on the post-Flint fears.

    The American Chemistry Council, a deep-pocketed trade association that lobbies for the plastics industry, has backed bills in at least five states — MichiganOhioSouth CarolinaIndiana and Arkansas — that would require local governments to open up bids for municipal water projects to all suitable materials, including plastic. A council spokesman, Scott Openshaw, criticized the current bidding process in many localities as "virtual monopolies which waste taxpayer money, drive up costs and ultimately make it harder for states and municipalities to complete critical water infrastructure upgrades."

    Opponents of the industry-backed bills, including many municipal engineers, say they are a thinly-veiled effort by the plastics industry to muscle aside traditional pipe suppliers.

    "It's simply catering to an industry that is trying to use legislation to gain market share," Stephen Pangori of the American Council of Engineering Companies testified this year before a Michigan Senate committee.

    To more directly reach towns and counties across the country, the plastics industry is also leaning on the American City County Exchange, a new group that gives corporations extraordinary capacity to influence public policy at the city and county levels. The group operates under the auspices of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a wider effort funded by the petrochemicals billionaires Charles G. and David H. Kochthat has drawn scrutiny for helping corporations and local politicians write legislation behind closed doors.

    Corporations pay membership fees as high as $25,000 to gain access to some 1,500 mayors and local council members who have signed up for the initiative. At a July convention in Denver that brought together about three dozen local legislators, Bruce Hollands, executive director of the plastic pipe industry group Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, discussed what had gone wrong in Flint, and explained what needed to be done to open up local bidding for plastic water pipes. To spur local decision-making, the A.C.C.E. has also adopted model legislationpushing for more open bidding for water pipes.

    "We're just trying to take up policies that limit the size of government, that keep it from growing exponentially," said Jon Russell, national director of the A.C.C.E. and a councilman from the town of Culpeper, Va.

    Plastics are obvious replacement for the country's aging pipes. Lightweight, easy to install, corrosion-free and up to 50 percent cheaper than iron, plastic pipes have already taken the place of copper as the preferred material for service lines that connect homes to municipal mains, as well as water pipes inside the home.

    Still, some scientists warn that the rapid replacement of America's water infrastructure with plastic could bring its own health concerns.

    Scientists are just starting to understand the effect of plastic on the quality and safety of drinking water, including what sort of chemicals can leach into the water from the pipes themselves, or from surrounding groundwater contamination. Studies have shown that toxic pollutants like benzene and toluene from spills and contaminated soil can permeate certain types of plastic pipes as they age. A 2013 review of research on leaching from plastic pipe identified more than 150 contaminants migrating from plastic pipes into drinking water.

    "Plastics are being installed without any real understanding of what they're doing to our drinking water," said Andrew J. Whelton, assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, and an author of the 2013 study. "We don't know what chemicals we're being exposed to."

    Sensing an opening, the iron pipe industry has started a public relations push of its own, voicing concerns over plastic, wooing President Trumpwith accolades for his infrastructure drive, and setting up a war between the two industries.

    "Iron is just more durable. It's a more proven material," said Patrick Hogan, president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, the industry's main lobby group. "Iron's been in the ground for 100 years."

    Plastic groups have criticized the studies, saying they focus on older generations of plastic piping and conflate different types of plastics. They also stress that their pipes are independently tested by the third-party organization.

    "It's not a new material. It's a safe material. It's independently tested," said Mr. Hollands, executive director of the Uni-Bell plastic pipes group.

    The industry outreach, at times, has been more overt.

    At the height of Flint's water crisis, the chief executive of one of the nation's largest manufacturers of plastic pipes, JM Eagle, traveled to the beleaguered city and offered to replace the city's lead pipes for free.

    Pipes fromJM Eagle would last 100 years and were a long-lasting and safe solution, the company's chief executive, Walter Wang, told the city council last February. "This water crisis, this contamination issue," he said, "it's hurting children and making them sick."

    JM Eagle, however, has faced recent legal problems. In 2013, a federal jury in California found that the Los Angeles-based company defrauded states and municipalities for more than a decade by knowingly selling defective water pipes. In some places, PVC pipes that were supposed to last 50 years exploded in their first year, causing injuries and flooding.

    JM Eagle declined to comment but has previously said the litigation was based on "scurrilous allegations" by a disgruntled former employee. Formosa Plastics, a Taiwanese industrial conglomerate that was its parent company at the time, agreed to pay $22.5 million in a settlement with municipalities and other government agencies in California.

    The uncertainty over potable water pipes of all kinds is exacerbated by a lack of regulation over their safety. There is no federal oversight of the materials or processes used to manufacture plastic water pipes; instead, water pipes are certified and tested by an organization paid for by industry.

    That organization, NSF International, displays a picture of the Capitol building on its regulatory resources web page and runs a hotline for questions on regulations and product safety. Yet it has never received regulatory authority from the federal government. Nor does it disclose test results for the pipes it certifies.

    NSF International called its testing robust. "If a product does not meet the requirements of a standard, it will not pass," said Dave Purkiss, the organization's general manager of water systems.

    For now, Flint is fitting the city with service lines made with another material: copper, at an expected cost of more than $140 million. Officials discussed creating a pilot area using plastic to replace the service lines to houses on several city blocks, according to Plastics News, though a Flint spokeswoman, Kristin Moore, said plastic pipes were not currently under consideration.

    "When you take that inherent issue that we needed to rebuild trust of the citizens in the water system, we felt that copper was the way to go," Michael McDaniel, a retired Michigan National Guard brigadier general put in charge of replacing Flint's water pipes, said at a conference this year.

    In Burton, just next door to Flint, budget realities have made plastics the realistic choice.

    The small city of 29,000 saved $2.2 million by using plastic to replace its own 1930s-era water system after state regulators alerted the city to critically needed fixes. For a municipality struggling with a dwindling tax base, those savings were huge.

    "We needed safe water, and we needed it fast. We needed to replace the system and PVC was a good choice for us," said Burton mayor Paula Zelenko. "I've got to get the best bang for the buck, because bucks are hard to come by these days."






















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